Empty Student Homes

Left your student home empty? Find out your legal obligations and where you can go for support if you're struggling to pay your bills, can't collect your belongings, or need to find someone to take over your tenancy.

Left your student home empty?

If there’s currently no-one living in your rented home, you have a legal obligation to let your landlord know. This is because:

  • Your tenancy agreement says so.
  • Your landlord’s insurance might be invalidated if the property is empty
  • Your landlord might have to take extra safety/security measures
  • Your landlord might ask you to take extra safety/security measures
  • Your house will be more prone to burglaries if you don’t take some safety/security measures

If you moved back home during lockdown and have remained there, please email/text your landlord to let them know if you haven’t already done so. This is important for safety and security reasons. If they are asking you for actions that you cannot take due to lockdown or financial reasons, we recommend you ask us for guidance.

Do I still have to pay for bills?

Yes. If your bills are not included in your utilities, then you have an obligation to split any utilities equally with all the other tenants, regardless of who is staying in the house. This is because:

  • You signed a contract saying you would (your tenancy agreement)
  • All your utilities have a running cost, whether you are using them or not
  • Your housemates signed up to this property with you on the understanding that you’d split the costs, and probably can’t afford to pay without your help
  • Any outstanding debts to utilities companies can be deducted from your security deposit to stop the property from becoming blacklisted

Struggling to pay the bills?

If you have fallen behind on your bills, we encourage you to get some advice. We are seeing cases of students losing their security deposits as collections fees are added to bills. In some cases, students still owe money after losing their deposits and they are being threatened with legal action. If you take action now, you can avoid this happening to you, even if you don't have the funds to pay right now.

Let your housemates know what your situation is and contact the utilities companies to let them know, too. You can ask them to make smaller monthly payments until your financial situation improves. They are usually very understanding and often have helpful information on this topic on their websites, including how to contact them about it.

You can ask for an advice appointment if you need some guidance about how to communicate with your utilities companies or housemates regarding this issue. We can offer you an individual/group Zoom appointment to discuss any other worries you might have.

If you are having financial problems, you can contact the University’s Financial Wellbeing team to ask for guidance on managing your debts by emailing moneymatters@royalholloway.ac.uk or calling + 44 (0) 1784 276109 /414633 to ask for an appointment. You can also find advice and tips on their ‘Managing Your Money’ page. 

Left your stuff behind?

If you’re not moving back in, we strongly recommend you make arrangements to pick your belongings up ASAP (making sure to follow social distancing guidelines). We are seeing cases of students’ belongings getting ruined and mould forming in unventilated properties. We are also seeing a few cases of reckless landlords moving, damaging, and discarding students’ belongings. If this has happened to you, we recommend you get legal advice.

You can get free legal advice from University of London Housing Services by asking them for an appointment. You can also email them or call 0207 862 8880 with your query. If you email, you must do so via your University account.

Can’t pick up your stuff?

  1. Communicate with your landlord in writing letting them know why you can’t pick up your stuff
  2. Ask them if they can give you some time to look for a solution
  3. Ask friends and family to see if they can help. If not, search for storage companies that will pack and store/transport your stuff for you
  4. Keep the landlord updated once you arrange/book something. Check with them before booking if they will need to be present to give access to the packers/movers.

Paying for an empty room?

You can discuss the possibility of subletting with your housemates and landlord, but you will need their written permission to avoid problems. You can also look for a replacement tenant to take over your contract if you have decided to commute in September. However, please remember that there is a lot of competition with so many free rooms, so it’s possible that you won’t find someone. If you do have written permission from your housemates and landlord to advertise your room, then you can join our RHSUHouseMating Facebook group.

At our Advice Centre, we see every day that problems start to shrink as soon as you deal with them. We know that lockdown has made complicated things, but some things can’t wait! The good news is that we are here all summer to guide and support you through it all. If you just want to speak to a human for some advice, ask us for a phone or Zoom appointment.

Further support

We appreciate the volume of information being sent your way could be quite overwhelming, so we've created a Coronavirus Hub to give you quick links to key advice, guidance, and our latest news updates. With dedicated pages for housingacademic, and welfare advice, as well as links to government advice and College FAQs, it's your one-stop shop for all the vital information during this time.

The Advice Centre is a free, independent and confidential service for all students here at Royal Holloway. Our friendly, experienced and professional staff will provide a listening ear and offer general and specialist advice. We’re here to support you with a whole range of issues, big and small, and if we’re not the best people to help you with a particular issue, we’ll point you in the right direction.

Email us at advice@su.rhul.ac.uk with any questions or to ask for a phone appointment